Chapter 14: "Bring My Soul Back to the Earth"
After what seemed like an eternity on lost waters, madness started to creep into them. Hallucinations took the place of dreams and the lines between real and imagined seemed to blur. The sun never moved in the sky, night never came, weather never changed, and the sea itself held completely still. It was like the world had frozen in time…and that time was harsh and constant. The unforgiving heat created salty vapors that choked the travelers and dried their bodies from within and without.
It had become difficult for the Old Man to keep his eyes open against the flare of the sun in recent days—if, in fact, days existed anymore. He found himself trying to flush the white starbursts from his eyes as Lesedi approached.
As always, Lesedi sat beside him without words for a long while. When the Old Man also said nothing for a while, Lesedi finally offered his own thoughts. “You are not happy?”
The Old Man laughed out loud at that. “Do I really read so plainly, my friend? No, Lesedi. It is not a matter of happiness or unhappiness. It is an unfamiliar sort of loneliness that I’m struggling with. Honestly, I’m not sure how to even explain it to you.”
Lesedi nodded deeply, “The Woman is no longer with you…with us.”
The Old Man nodded sadly. “I’m afraid you may have been right about the sea, my friend. This place seems like damnation. It gets harder with each breath to keep believing that it will not be eternal. It scares me.”
Lesedi stared him fiercely in the eyes. “It is natural to feel fear. But it is wrong to let fear dictate belief.”
Just then, a loud holler echoed across the deck, followed quickly by a splash in the water. Both the Old Man and Lesedi leapt to their feet and hurried to the side of the boat. There they found a most unexpected sight: fun.
Felix had grown tired of the heat and, in spite of it, dove fearlessly into the water. Until then, no one had been bold enough to try it. The sea was unknown and frightening; its mystique kept the travelers hidden within the boat. But Felix wasn’t the sort to be restricted or imprisoned. So, they all watched in wonder as their friend dipped beneath the surface and paddled around the boat, refusing to let the Endless Sea restrain him.
And Felix was laughing; it had been quite a while since any of them had mustered the mood to laugh. The Old Man suddenly found himself, among others, now laughing along with Felix. A few of the others began to strip down and dip their toes and feet into the water.
“No.” Lesedi’s face had gone stony and wide-eyed. He reached his hands out to stay the others. “This must stop.” Then he moved closer to the edge and spoke directly to Felix. “You must get out of the water. Now.”
Felix acted as though he hadn’t heard Lesedi’s advice. He only continued to laugh and tread water just beyond the boat’s small ladder.
Lesedi’s voice rose to a boom, “Get out of the water!”
Felix’s smile twisted into an annoyed expression of challenge…but only for a moment.
Right then, Felix’s eyes darted to the surface of the water around him with a look of shock. “I think something just moved under me.”
The Old Man quickly echoed Lesedi’s sentiments, “You should get back in the boat now.”
Felix was already grasping for the bottom rung of the ladder. Within seconds, all companions were pulling Felix back up onto the deck. There was a silent agreement at that moment: no one would ever go into the water again.
At least not by choice.